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A Domenico Scarlatti Sonata that enables Finger and Forearm Staccato

It’s been decades since my beloved N.Y.C. piano teacher, Lillian Freundlich bestowed upon me the gift of Domenico Scarlatti Sonatas. And at the time, (while I was a student at the New York City H.S. of Performing Arts) I had no idea that those she had selected were permeated with the basics of technique bonded to musical expression.

lillianfreundlich  lil2

Yet, I have no specific recollection of my mentor having isolated finger staccato from that generated by the forearm. Similarly, wrist staccato was even more foreign to her musical vocabulary. (Nonetheless Mrs. Freundlich always checked for supple wrists, and for relaxingly suspended arms without a trace of tension)

Basically, Lillian Freundlich’s springboard was the singing tone, and how to phrase by building smaller measures to larger ones using a free fall relaxed arm and a progressive note-grouping approach. She also doted on the dotted 8th/16th rhythm to smooth out bumpy lines.

As years have passed, and more than one teacher has influenced me during an extended musical journey in and out of the Conservatory, I’ve come to the conclusion that identifying and isolating various types of staccato is part of the enriched piano learning cosmos–that such a physical/musical nexus is intrinsic to growing artistry.

Excuse my wordy introduction, but perhaps it’s a necessary prelude to a tutorial I prepared right after having resurrected Scarlatti Sonata in G, K. 14, L. 387 as part of my spiritual homecoming.

Scarlatti Sonata in G  p. 1

Having observed reams of detached notes in forte and piano dynamic ranges permeating the score, I realized how fortunate I was to have spent inordinate time with my adult students cultivating various kinds of staccato via scales and arpeggios around the Circle of Fifths. It clearly amounted to a common journey of infinite value!

Finally, to have reviewed a Baroque era composition that was exemplary of the Keyboard School of Virtuosity fathered by Domenico Scarlatti, afforded an opportunity to re-explore staccato playing in all its expressive facets.

Play Through:

Instruction:

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Domenico Scarlatti’s music that’s within reach of the Intermediate level student

Scarlatti Halford better

Margery Halford via Alfred publications has compiled a nice assortment of Domenico Scarlatti’s Menuettos and Sonatas (essercizi) that’s a satisfying “Introduction” to the Baroque era composer’s music. (Scarlatti, An Introduction to his Keyboard Works)

In fact, I snatched at least five of these binary form sonatas for my two-part disc in 2007, combined with the more technically challenging ones I selected from Vladimir Horowitz’s treasured Scarlatti CD.

Horowitz championed Domenico Scarlatti’s works during a time when many concert pianists were not programming the composer’s body of works, so Domenico’s rebirth was a blessing to performers, teachers, and students who realized not only the beauty of his music but its relevance to developing technique and musicianship.

Scarlatti, in fact, is considered the forerunner of the virtuoso school of keyboard playing, and in these less complex examples from Halford’s collection, one can readily flesh out arpeggio and scale passages that easily transfer from Circle of Fifths Scale and Arpeggio study. (Note Scarlatti’s own translation of his Sonatas as Essercizi per Gravicembalo–or exercises)

The other day, I sent this particular gem to my students with the tag, “That’s why we study arpeggios!” Surely such an exemplary beauty cross-fertilizes and enriches their daily technical regimen.

In this second example from the Halford edition, more arpeggios and broken chords permeate, but there are a few selected arpeggio and scale-like passages that are worth examining for their focus on particular wrist forward motions that I will separately examine in my attached sample:

First, a play through:


Snatching measures from this sonata for technical study and fluency:

Scarlatti segment from Sonata in G

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A most recently learned delightful miniature:

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Here’s annother Halford selected gem (a Menuetto, once again) that was rendered on my formerly owned Baldwin Hamilton grand piano (known as the “blind date” beauty) To be sure, it had a brighter timbre which proves that each piano has its own unique character.

(I’m definitely enjoying my new Baldwin 165 model grand with its more mellow character)

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Not contained in Halford’s collection, but snatched from James Friskin’s edition, is the celebrated C Major Sonata L. 159 that my late teacher, Lillian Freundlich gave me to study decades ago when I first began lessons with her. (At the time, I was about 13, enrolled at the New York City High School of Performing Arts)

This certainly poses a challenge in the universe of trills, providing an ample practice opportunity for a student needing such focus.

LINK:
Scarlatti’s LIFE, CAREER, and MUSIC
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domenico_Scarlatti

Domenico Scarlatti, Domenico Scarlatti birthday, Murray Perahia, piano blog, Richard Goode, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten, The Musical Offering Cafe, The Musical Offering Cafe in Berkeley, Zellerbach Hall

Celebrating Domenico Scarlatti’s birthday at the Musical Offering Cafe in Berkeley (Video)

musical offering parking lot mural

A great prelude to Richard Goode’s Berkeley piano recital was my brief stop-off at the colorful Musical Offering Cafe (2430 Bancroft Way) which sits directly across from Zellerbach Hall. Even the parking lot that hosts guests at both locations, has a gorgeous mural that lures concertgoers to the charming, arts-centered bistro. Packed with Classical CDs that spill into a space reserved for fine dining, the cafe is resonating with love for the great music Masters.

Since it was October 26th, Domenico Scarlatti’s birthday, my piano student, Jocel, and I fully intended to honor the composer by purchasing a few sonata-filled Cds.

That’s how a SONY Classical disk, Murray Perahia plays Handel and Scarlatti, landed in Jocel’s hands while I snatched the pianist’s Bach Concerti album.

Perahia album cropped

The Musical Offering is a great place to eat, schmooze with other Classical music mavens, and grab a few bargain priced CDs.

So on my next outing to Zellerbach, I’ll be sure to spend more time sifting through album files while sipping a cafe latte.

LINKS

http://musicaloffering.com/cafe/

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2014/10/26/a-feast-of-pianist-richard-goodes-artistry-and-a-walk-down-memory-lane/

Domenico Scarlatti, Solano Oriental Rug Gallery, word press, word press.com, wordpress, wordpress.com, you tube video, you tube.com, yout tube, youtube.com

Scarlatti adorned

One of the joys of being a new Berkeley resident is exploring my neighborhood and beyond. Solano, a favorite locale, has afforded opportunities to snap photos in fancy shops and intersperse them with my piano music.

Here’s the latest sample that fleshes out the beauty of Scarlatti’s music with its stream of ornaments.

And here played without adornment:

LINKS:
http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/shirleyk
http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/shirleyk2

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Piano Instruction: Pastorale in D Major, K. 415 by Domenico Scarlatti, a stepwise approach

The Pastorale in D, included in Margery Halford’s Scarlatti, An Introduction to his Keyboard Works, poses significant musical challenges. In the technical realm, the composer has a tricky landscape of two-note legato figures as offbeats in the treble, and these are set against bass, dotted quarter rhythms. (This counterpoint is later inverted in the middle section)-Note that 12/8 meter is felt in 4.

Intertwined with this mosaic are a series of apoggiaturas, or non-harmonic tones that resolve into the bass chords through redundant two-note groupings. These passing harmonic clashes in duple 8ths are strongly “motivic” meaning they reflect the composer’s main idea in its smallest form.

In realizing these redundant figures, the pianist has to carefully lean on the dissonant note, and artfully resolve it. A supple wrist helps to shape down these slurs.

In my video instruction, I show ways to practice the Pastorale, starting with separate hands, isolating voices, blocking, and tracking harmonies. The application of a flexible wrist is naturally indispensable to this whole learning process, and playing with a singing tone should underlie all practicing.

LINKS:

LIVE webcam instruction at POWHOW

http://www.powhow.com/classes/shirley-kirsten

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Scarlatti Sonata in G, K. 431 Tutorial

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/04/20/learning-a-new-piano-piece-quickly-and-thoroughly-videos/

Scarlatti Minuetto in C, L. 217 Tutorial:

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/04/17/piano-instruction-domenico-scarlatti-minuetto-in-c-l-217-videos/

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Learning a new piano piece quickly and thoroughly (Videos)

I challenged myself to quickly learn the shortest Scarlatti sonata on record (K. 431 in G) and share the principles of developing this piece to a level of fluidity with interested students. Perhaps it would help them navigate a new musical landscape.

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Looking over the two-page Scarlatti score, we notice a preponderance of broken-chord figures in the right hand and these offer the perfect opportunity for blocking before unraveling them. Naturally, having a bit of theory under our belt, helps give context to these progressions. It provides another way of “knowing” them, and this “cognitive” mapping deepens our learning process as long as it doesn’t become an exclusive END in itself.

Same for fingering-driven learning. (Remember the paint by finger number kits?)

The musical side of knowing has to underlie the creative process, regardless of rational “assists” we devise along the way. That’s why the cognitive and AFFECTIVE ways of understanding a new piece should fuse together from the start.

In the video instruction below, I offer guidance about fingering, harmonic outline, phrasing, shape, form, nuance and mood.

When these ingredients are in harmony and balance, then the playing outcome will be satisfying sooner than later.

Instruction:

Play through in tempo:

LINKS:

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/04/17/piano-instruction-domenico-scarlatti-minuetto-in-c-l-217-videos/


http://www.powhow.com/classes/shirley-kirsten

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Piano Instruction: Domenico Scarlatti Minuetto in C, L. 217 (Videos)

Many of Scarlatti’s compositions are not within easy reach of most piano students, but Margery Halford, editor, has compiled an Introductory album published by Alfred, with technically and musically attainable works. And it’s a blessing that she’s eliminated ones with crossed-hand acrobatics. Yet trills, so emblematic of the composer, are an ever-present challenge.

Wrist Flexibility

My interest in the Minuetto, L. 217 centered upon its ascending broken-chord figures that alternate with upward step-wise progressions. These require a forward motion wrist movement to create curvaceous lines and pleasing contours.

In the videos below I flesh out this particular motion, while exploring the Minuetto’s harmonic outline and recurrent sequences.

The Instruction:

Play through:

LINKS:

http://www.powhow.com/classes/shirley-kirsten

Shirley Kirsten

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